It all went a bit Masterchef for supper in our house last night. When I put the starter down on the table it was a toss up over whether we should eat it or paint it in watercolours. There was a fair amount of effort involved so this is a dish to do if you’re out to impress or have a bit of time on your hands, or if, like me, no amount of time is too much to spend on dinner. The idea for the caper pesto came out of the need for something salty to accompany the scallops. I wanted to try something other than the usual suspects of bacon, pancetta or black pudding. The acidity needed for by seafood dishes was provided by the red pepper and lime emulsion. One whole red pepper was reduced down to its very essence and produced only two teaspoons of the emulsion so its flavour was beautifully intense. Finally, the spring onion tempura gave a deliciously light, crisp texture contrast to the sweet, soft scallops. The whole thing was divine so I’m going to blow my own trumpet and use the Masterchef catchphrase to describe it and say COOKING DOESN’T GET BETTER THAN THIS!
6 hand dived scallops
For the Caper & Basil Pesto
1 tbsp capers
2 tbsp oil
3 cloves garlic
For the Red Pepper & Lime Emulsion
1 red pepper
1 tsp tomato puree
Pinch of salt
1 tsp light oil (groundnut for example)
Tiny bit of light honey
For the Spring Onion Tempura
3 large spring onions
150ml sparkling mineral water
80g plain flour
To make the caper & basil pesto; rinse the capers and pat them dry. Saute the garlic in the oil and then put everything into a pestil and mortar and grind to a paste.
To make the red pepper & lime emulsion; put the red pepper onto a naked gas flame and keep turning it until all the skin is chargrilled. Alternatively, you can put it under the grill to get the same effect. When its done run it under the tap and rub off the blackened skin. Cut out the seeds and stalk and put the flesh into a blender with the tomato puree and give it a whizz. Place the resulting pulp into a piece of muslin and squeeze out the liquid. There will be no more than a few tablespoons. Put this in a pan and reduce it down to one teaspoon. Keep an eye on it or you’ll end up with no liquid and a burnt pan. Put your one teaspoon of red pepper juice in a small jar and add the teaspoon of oil, the small squeeze of lime, a drop of honey and a tiny pinch of salt.
For the spring onion tempura; slice the spring onions thinly and put them in a bowl. Heat some frying oil in a small pan and then make the tempura batter. Crack the egg into the two flours and a pinch of salt and whisk in the mineral water. Working quickly, mix the batter through the spring onions and drop teaspoons of this into the hot oil. It will cook in a matter of seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen paper.
Lastly, pan fry the scallops with a little oil, butter and salt. This should take a few minutes per side, depending on their size. Then comes the Blue Peter moment. Arrange all the elements on two plates however you want – but don’t take too long – this sort of food gets cold quickly.